Patterns of Workplace Support: An Exploration of the Experiences of Workers with Mental Health Disabilities
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Purpose: To evaluate differences in perceived workplace social support for different disability groups, and to better understand the support experiences of persons with mental health disabilities. Methods: A sequential mixed methods design was used. Phase I involved the analysis of an existing dataset to compare perceived social support scores between participants with different disabilities. Phase II, rooted in the phenomenology tradition, involved interviews with workers with mental health disabilities. Triangulation of methods was done in the analysis phase by comparing participant interviews with their corresponding support scores. Results: Phase I - No significant differences were found between participants with orthopaedic and emotional disabilities regarding their total perceived social support score, or support scores according to type (e.g. informational) or source (e.g. supervisor) of support; however, trends suggested that participants with emotional disabilities had higher perceived support scores for friends/family support and lower perceived support scores for appraisal support. Regression models developed from the demographic variables did not predict the perceived amount of social support. Phase II – 9 theme clusters concerning the role of supervisors, external and internal factors, and disclosure emerged from the interviews with workers with mental health disabilities regarding their experiences of support in the workplace. Conclusions: This was the first mixed-methods study to examine the workplace support experiences of individuals with mental health disabilities using a workplace and disability context specific support scale and interviews rooted in phenomenology. No significant differences in perceived support scores between orthopaedic and emotional disabilities were found and this may be attributable to small sample size. In addition, although the qualitative findings provide interesting insight into support experiences, additional research with more participants from a variety of industries would add to the findings.